Gareth Southgate is arguably the best manager England have had since Alf Ramsey, who won the World Cup in 1966.
Southgate’s experience as an England player gives him insight into what the players are going through. A great manager earns the respect of his team, he doesn’t demand it. Some of that respect has come from his record. Under his leadership as manager of the national team, England have lost just three games, winning 13 and drawing four.
One downfall of a lot of managers is their lack of preparation. At no point has Gareth Southgate fallen into this trap. He could have played a ‘weaker’ side against teams like Tunisia and Panama but he knew how much those games meant to the other team and how hard they would fight to win, so he put strong teams out and it paid off. Every player has a fair chance under this manager. They’re given an opportunity to showcase what they can do. Whether it’s the starting XI or subs, he rarely plays the exact same team, which is a strategy to keep opponents on their toes, making it harder for them to do their homework.
Past failures pointing the way forward
His heartache suffered as an England player may have something to do with it. It’s one of his strengths, and he uses it as a lesson for the current team.
He missed a crucial penalty against Germany in the semi-finals of Euro 96. He knows what went wrong then. He knows what he would do if he could turn back time and do it all over again. Case in point, he’s made the squad practice penalty shootouts, including the walk from the halfway line. The idea being that it will improve each player and hopefully make the situation less nervous than when he took that walk on that night 22 years ago.
England also have a reputation of relying on players to volunteer for shootouts. However, having volunteered himself that night against Germany, the plan was to decide which players would take penalties beforehand. It all paid off. England won their first ever penalty shootout at a World Cup in the Round of 16 stage of this year’s tournament.
Less than a week after their penalty shootout win, England defeated Sweden 2-0, securing themselves a place in the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since Italia ’90. It has been twenty eight years since fans have been waiting to see their nation succeed. Southgate has truly helped to rewrite the history books.
A man anyone can relate to
Southgate is a down to earth person who knows how it feels to have the weight of a nation on his shoulders.
He knows how much is expected of his players and how to get the full potential out of them. We can all identify with his compassion. He was pictured after England’s win over Colombia consolidating one of the opponents who had missed his penalty. The picture went viral and has often been put up on social media side by side with the picture of Terry Venables consolidating Southgate after his missed penalty at Euro 96.
Many fans from across the globe are now describing him as a man full of integrity, honesty and empathy, which is a joy to see. There was even a hashtag trend surrounding him including #GarethSouthgateWould. My favorite use of it was “#GarethSouthgateWould pop in to make sure your nan is okay while you’re on holiday.”
It’s not just his on-the-pitch manner that makes him so engaging. He’s a genuinely good-natured person who understands and connects with the players on a personal level. He is there for his players as a friend as well as being their boss. For example, there are a number of players whose partners are expecting. He let Fabian Delph miss the game against Colombia so he could be at the birth of his third child. When addressing the media about such circumstances, Southgate told them that there are more important things in life than the World Cup.
Gareth Southgate doesn’t just have the respect of his team but he has earned the respect of his nation. He has put hope back into the lives of a population who’d almost given up on their chances of being a success at major tournaments. Even if England don’t make it past the semi-finals, they will be celebrated and applauded upon their homecoming. Now, that is an attribute of an outstanding manager. He’s not just the England manager. He’s the people’s manager.